Friday, June 25, 2010

About vuvuzelas, and balls that work strangely

The Washington Post recently published this article by Anne Applebaum about vuvuzelas, the loud horns that you hear in the World Cup matches.

For those who haven't been following, the vuvuzela is a longish plastic trumpet that produces a buzzing noise, something like an overgrown penny whistle. When thousands of people blow these whistles at once, they make a very loud buzzing noise, something like a massive swarm of bees. When played in a World Cup soccer stadium, they create an irritating background hum -- one that is capable of ruining the sound on a billion television sets around the world.

She then talks about the different reactions to these horns by folks from around the world. I did my own survey of fellow soccer players and parents of the girls I coach. Typical responses:

I hate that noise. It must go. It's enough to embrace curling as a favorite sport.

I am enjoying watching the games at home with the sound turned off.

Meanwhile, there is this article by Devin Powell at Inside Science that suggests that the ball (the Jabulani) being used in the World Cup doesn't behave right, especially at low speeds when it is not spinning. It appears that there is an unexpected knuckle ball effect.

[Tests showed] that as the ball slows, its behavior becomes more like that of a smooth sphere than previous World Cup balls. At just under 45 mph, turbulent flow becomes laminar and the ball suddenly feels heavy drag forces that put on the brakes.

[Also, the] sideways force on the Jabulani fluctuates more than the forces on the 2006 World Cup ball, which could cause it to bend in unpredictable ways and help to explain the reactions from goalkeepers.

But, before you think that those guys from France have an excuse, look at this final point:

Considering all of the other variables involved in the World Cup -- from pitches at high altitudes to inconsistent player performances -- it's unclear whether these differences in the ball in this are extreme enough to affect the final scores.


Robert Marshall Murphy said...

I consider myself fortunate to have grown up in England, where "football" was a ubiquitous part of live. I always figured "buzzing bees" were just part of watching a match.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this article, Paul. I am about to adjust my TV settings to take out the sound of the vuvuzelas. The only screaming I want to do during the US v. Ghana match is for goals! Nancy